Monday, April 22, 2013

Mount Edgcumbe and the National Camellia Collection

A couple of warm, sunny days recently gave me the chance to travel across the Tamar to visit the National Camellia collection housed in Mount Edgcumbe Country Park.  Housed in the woodland which sits above the formal gardens and the house, the collection benefits from the mild winter climate on the edge of Plymouth Sound and has grown over the years to comprise more than 1000 species and varieties.  Some are recent additions but there are some older specimens showing the full potential of these lovely plants.  

A single visit is only a snapshot, of course.  Autumn flowering Camellia sasanqua varieties are not in flower and some of the earlier flowering varieties were going over despite the late start to spring this year.  But even so, I could only photograph a fraction of the collection in the time available.  But that's enough to give a glimpse of the sheer diversity this genus offers.  And all at a time of year when masses of colour is welcome after the winter.

Camellia japonica types and cultivars are very well represented.  Here's a sample, running the gamut from plain single flowers, through more formal semi-doubles and doubles to the blowsier paeony forms.  Click the pictures to embiggen:

Camellia japonica 'Finlandia'
Camellia japonica 'Grand Slam'
Camellia japonica 'Laura Schafer'
Camellia japonica 'Rubescens Major'
Camellia japonica 'Chandlerii'
Camellia japonica 'Dainty Dale'
Camellia japonica 'Duchesse Decazes'
Camellia japonica 'Erin Farmer'
Camellia japonica 'Jingle Bells'
Camellia japonica 'Jupiter'
Camellia japonica 'Lady de Saumarez'
Camellia japonica 'Ludgvan Red'
Camellia japonica 'Maculata Superba'
Camellia japonica 'Mrs Anne Marie Hovey'
Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Pearl'
Camellia japonica 'Lady Vansittart Blush'
Camellia japonica 'Lady Vansittart Blush' again - no two flowers are alike
Camellia japonica 'Onetia Holland'
Camellia japonica 'Spencer's Pink'
Camellia japonica 'The Czar'
Camellia japonica 'Tinker Bell'
Camellia japonica 'Valteverada'

If the C.japonica types have a problem it's that the flowers are vulnerable to spring frosts and even though replaced with newly opened buds are not promptly shed.  In bad years they can become unsightly.  The late flowering this year has coincided with warmer weather without night frosts and so many flowers were almost perfect (though the whites and pale pinks can still show a little browning on the edge petals.

The Camellia x williamsii crosses are often even larger and more prolific in flower - and easily shed old, spent flowers.  For most of us they represent better garden value.  Needless to say there is no shortage in the collection:

Camellia x williamsii 'Les Jury'
Camellia x williamsii 'Marjorie Williams'
Camellia x williamsii 'Debbie Carnation'

Camellia x williamsii 'Inspiration'
Camellia x williamsii 'Rosemary Sawle'
Camellia x williamsii 'Tristrem Carlyon'
Most flamboyant of all are the Camellia reticulata varieties and hybrids.  With big, blowsy flowers, oversized leaves and attractive small tree habits they are, unfortunately, not as hardy as C.japonica or C x williamsii  but do well here in the warmer wintered South West.  A section of the woodland is given over to these camellias and they do look impressive in flower.

Panorama shot of part of the Camellia reticulata collection - click to embiggen
Individual flowers can be 8in / 20cm across with some of these - but they all look good.  Now, where can I clear some space in my little plot?

Camellia reticulata 'Dream Castle'
Camellia reticulata 'Ming Temple'
Camellia reticulata 'Royalty'
Camellia saluenensis x reticulata 'Valentine Day'
Camellia reticulata x japonica 'Lasca Beauty'
All in all a very pleasant afternoon spent amongst these beautiful spring flowering shrubs.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day April 2013

It's been a long winter in the UK, even in the far South West.  Temperatures are starting to pick up now but we've had weeks and weeks of cold, easterly winds and barely above freezing weather.  No snow down here but everything in the garden has been very reluctant to show any development since the last Garden Blogger's Bloom Day I contributed to back in February.  Fortunately the last week or so has seen things improve and I do have some colour and interest at long last.

Stars of the show are the camellias.  And star of the camellia show has to be Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'.  The bush in the front garden is now fairly substantial - about 7ft / 2.2metres high and wide - and smothered in big, 5-6in / 15cm semi double blooms.  A gorgeous sight and I make no apologies for including multiple photos.  As always, click the photos to embiggen.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'
Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'
 My other spring flowering camellias are also in bloom, albeit that 'Cornish Snow' only has a few buds left to open and 'Anticipation' has barely got started.  The mis-sold small pink semi double that I've very tentatively identified as 'Magnoliiflora' is flowering away but it's never been as densely covered as 'Donation' or the specimen of 'St Ewe' in the front garden.  Welcome, nevertheless.

Unidentified small pink Camellia - possibly 'Magnoliiflora'

Camellia x williamsii 'St Ewe'
Covering the ground are a lot of seed set primroses, both the wild type and their hybridised offspring.  Over the years I've added the odd decorative type; singles, doubles and polyanthus types.  They haven't persisted - but they've left their legacy and broadened the gene pool of the more persistent natives.  So I can go from perfect wild types like this:

Primula vulgaris - wild type primrose
 To shades of cream, pale and darker pink to red. 
Primula vulgaris - a redder flowered variant
I really should add some more variants to refresh the range.

Speaking of plants that persist from year to year and spread mildly by seeding I regularly get a crop of the intensely blue flowered Myosotis despite not having sown any for years.  These do bear very close inspection to appreciate the true beauty of the intensely blue but tiny flowers.  You get the same effect with Brunnera macrophylla but that's been very late to emerge this year so won't feature in this blog entry.

Another persistent seeder is Viola labradorica, one I introduced years ago for its darker leaves and pretty little flowers.  Even if I wanted to I doubt I'd ever be able to get rid of it.  The soil must be saturated with seed by now.
Viola labradorica
Lesser celandine, Ranunculus ficaria, is a pretty little yellow buttercup that crops up in the garden, usually spread by disturbing the little white tubers during cultivation.  It's not a problem and its pretty enough at this time of year.  Over the years a host of variants have been found in the wild and, increasingly, in gardens.  Singles, doubles, with a colour range from white through yellow to orange and varieties with marbled and bronzed leaves.  One that's very persistent and true to type with me is 'Brazen Hussy', with chocolate brown leaves and bright yellow flowers.  I've got quite a nice carpet of this in the rear garden and it's increasing year by year.

Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy'
Now the caveat.  My plant certainly matches the description of 'Brazen Hussy', first found in the wild by great plantsman and author Christopher Lloyd near his fabulous Great Dixter garden.  It's common in cultivation - but I didn't buy it or acquire it as a pass on.  My plant also came from the wild, so either it's a very similar chance variant or, more likely I've collected one of the offspring of a plant that a local resident has thrown out or deliberately planted to beautify the surrounding countryside.

That's about it for this month.  The early bulbs did make an appearance but are now faded.  The later bulbs - tulips, spanish bluebell, erythronium and others are very late this year.  Herbaceous plants such as pulmonarias and epimediums are still shivering with cold and rather reluctant to poke their heads above ground let alone flower.  My blossom trees, Magnolia 'Raspberry Ice' and Prunus 'Amanogawa', should both be in full flower but are both waiting for a bit more warmth.  But at least Pieris 'Flaming Silver' is starting to flower more regularly and prolifically as it gets older and bigger.  So that's the note I'll leave you on.

Pieris 'Flaming Silver' flowers

As always, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world.